Organisations have rushed to adopt Microsoft Teams over the last few weeks in these challenging and uncertain times.
Considering how many businesses are now using Teams, this blog looks at a few of the best practice guidelines to follow when setting up Teams for your organisation.
16 April 2020, by Adriaan Bekker, Technical Director, Softwerx.
Teams is a productivity app from Microsoft that has allowed organisations to keep in contact through its video, instant messaging and voice call features. Integrating Teams into current systems has meant a steep learning curve not only for staff, but also for most of the IT team supporting the application.
Teams adoption rates are so high that Microsoft has just announced that teams adoption in Italy is up 775% over the last month with over 44 million daily active users globally. Teams features many essential features for the modern workplace like voice calls, instant messaging, group channel messaging, file sharing and more. It even features dark mode.
Companies like ourselves at Softwerx have been using teams for some time as the main phone system and so we were able to just send staff home and continue to work uninterrupted. That’s a positive outcome because our entire phone system has been run over the internet including our direct dials which have been linked through Teams (and before teams through Skype for Business). In addition, the Business Voice SKU from Microsoft has enabled organisations that didn’t have IP phones to turn on the PABX features and continue receiving and making calls from home.
Here’s a screenshot of what the Teams telephone call system looks like (this screenshot is of Teams in dark mode of course):
As you can see this calls screen Teams interface is feature-rich giving you access to call people who are on teams, chat, manage your calendar and more. Using the panel on the bottom left you can make calls to any phone number. You’ve also got your settings to access contacts and set speed dials, etc. You are able to conduct video calls with anyone who has the Teams app and run video and call conferences for up to 250 people.
Teams not only manages telephone calls, but it features file sharing, project management tools like Planner, productivity tools like Outlook’s calendar integration, instant messenger, group chat and project coordination over instant messaging ‘channels’.
Whether you’re about to take Teams live or have had it setup for a while, now is a good time to review your Teams setup to ensure security and productivity. Here are some best practice guidelines:
First things first: Join the dark side: enable dark mode (optional)
Dark mode is a popular trend among users. Microsoft says it’s popular because it helps to “reduce eye strain, improve battery life, or it just has aesthetic appeal”. To enable the popular dark mode theme, log onto Microsoft Teams and select your profile picture in the top right of the window. From the context menu click Settings. From the General tab select Dark under Themes.
Provide users basic instructions and guidance
All users should be provided with some basic training on how to use Teams within the organisation, particularly on how the organisation expects them to use Teams and the basic etiquette around usage. An issue we often find is that organisations just assume users know what to do without guidance, which can cause considerable frustration.
As a minimum give them access to the Teams Quick Start Guide which can be found from Microsoft:
Increase the number of Teams groups gradually
Teams allows you the opportunity to create multiple groups of members and multiple channels within each group. The temptation to create a large number of groups quickly is an obvious one, as organisations believe this can easily be cleaned up in the future. However this is a risky strategy as it can be an extensive amount of work that can rapidly spin out of control. We suggest adding groups gradually, then reviewing members and creating channels to focus conversations inside each of them. The good news is that missed members can quickly be added and all the history of the group and channel chats stay available, meaning they can get up to speed really quickly.
Make use of the general channel
Every group you create has a general channel. This is ideal for communication between all the group’s members – so ensure you make full use of this! Note that you cannot rename, delete or unfavourite the general channel.
The general channel should be used for the following:
• Sharing an overview of what the team wants to achieve and who is part of the group
• Use it for new group members, providing high level information that they will find useful
• Sharing announcements
• For some teams it may be the only channel at the beginning as you decide how Teams can be optimised.
A handy feature of the user interface is that users can hide channels or choose to show only channels they use the most.
Security considerations for channels
Bear in mind that everyone can see general channels. You can use private channels if there are a select number of channels where users need to collaborate without involving the rest of the team. Private channels are indicated by the ‘lock’ icon next to the name (here’s what the light mode of Teams looks like by the way):
Channel comments can also be moderated before they are published if you activate that setting.
Create channels to focus conversation and information
It’s a good idea to create channels within each group for different projects and conversations. Use descriptive names to make it easy for people. For example, a tech team of developers might have different channels named after the different features, projects or client jobs they are working on.
Streamline your workflow by adding new tabs to the Teams productivity section
Within the ‘Teams’ bar on the left hand side, you are able to add new tabs on the top of that screen which pulls in different productivity and communication apps. For example, you can add Tools as a new tab, add webpages, and other third party apps. There are lots to choose from.
Please note there is no limit of channels in each team but channels should only be created once a need is identified and prioritised. Larger organisations may want to standardise some information they capture based on the type of information that is needed.
Teams is as a key collaboration tool for businesses, which brings together various communication and productivity features into a single pane of glass. With so much access to information and communication potential, understanding how to get set up quickly on Teams, whilst ensuring it doesn’t become a ‘free-for-all’, is key.
Although Teams can be turned on quickly and easily, some planning should go into its longer term use. By actioning the best practice guidelines above, you’ll help to optimise your set up and enhance security. Whether or not you choose to activate dark mode on yours, I’ll leave up to you.
About the author:
Adriaan Bekker is Technical Director of Softwerx. He has over 20 years’ experience working with Microsoft and over 10 years’ experience at C-Level. His extensive experience, together with having completed both IT and business degrees, means he has the insight and ability to successfully bridge the gap between technical, commercial and compliance requirements.
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